Today, I am starting a series of posts on the reading comprehension strategies that good readers use. Many of us do these things when we are reading, but you may not be aware of what you're doing or why. That's what I'm here for! I want to help you to understand how to refer to these strategies when you are already reading. It doesn't take much extra effort on your part to squeeze in a reference here or there about what good readers do. You'll be surprised once you start paying attention at how many things your good readers already do naturally! A few teacher books that will help you if you want to delve into comprehension strategies further are:
Reading With Meaning by Debbie Miller
Mosaic of Thought by Ellin Oliver Keene and Susan Zimmerman
Strategies That Work by Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis
How do you "teach" something that good readers do? You become the good model first. You can model reading a book and think aloud. I know some people feel goofy thinking aloud, but it seriously helps the kids to understand your thought process.
An example of modeling my mental images from Cynthia Rylant's The Relatives Came might be for me to say, "Wow, this page where she describes all of the sounds of everyone sleeping makes me really picture in my head all of these old and young family members lying all over each other sound asleep. It's dark and there's lots of snoring, but since it's in the country I think I can hear some crickets in the background too." Ideally, we might be listening to this book on CD so that we couldn't see any images in the first place.
So I am starting with visualization (some people know it as mental images) because it is a pretty easy concept to grasp. Good thinkers in general use this technique to help them understand what they are hearing. Imagine driving in the car listening to a baseball game. You are visualizing the game in your head to make it more real and understandable. For readers, being able to visualize what you read helps them to connect and remember. It's much easier to remember that in the book they visited a farm with cows if you had a picture in your head of that farm with cows. It's even easier to remember if you use your five senses to make that image come alive. In our adult lives, we check for comprehension by visualizing the book. If we realize that we can't see the picture in our head anymore, we go back to reread. It's really important when people are giving us directions, too. It helps to visualize turning left, then going around the fountain, and then stopping by the bike rack.
How to encourage your child to use the reading strategy of visualization:
*Teach them their five senses and help them to describe pictures with all of them. For instance, if they drew a picture of a flower, you might encourage them to describe how the flower feels, smells, looks, sounds, and tastes - if applicable. Then encourage them to use their five senses to create really vivid images in their minds.
*Talk with them when you are reading or listening to something on the radio. Ask them what they picture in their heads. Tell them what you picture in yours. It's important to note that there is not a "right" image for them to picture. Everyone's looks a little different and that's okay.
*Read a chapter book and have them describe certain scenes to you by what they see in their head. Explicitly say that good readers make pictures in their heads. If they're interested in sharing that image, they can draw you a picture.
*Play a "let's make pictures in our mind" game. You can do this on a walk, or in the car, or in the bath. Describe a silly picture and have your child practice picturing it in their head. If you have an older child, you can have them experiment with listening to you describe a scene one time without visualizing and one time with visualizing. Then see which one they remember better!
*Poetry is great for practicing visualization. Most of the time, each poem comes with little to no illustrations, so they are forced to create their own. The blog Fabulous in First has some great free worksheets and description to help with this. If you have more than one child, it's fun to have them each draw their mental images for the same poem. Amazing how different they can be!
*You can help your children discover that our mental images can change. I once read a poem that talked about a doctor who fixed broken things...so at first my mental images were in a doctor's office. As the poem ended, it talked about wooden legs and wobbly tables, so then my images changed to some kind of antique furniture store.
Our friend from Fabulous in First also shared this excellent list of book suggestions for creating mental images. Usually they are books or poems with more descriptive flavor. My favorites are Cynthia Rylant books, Georgia Heard poems, and Rosemary Wells' Night Sounds, Morning Colors.
Some Picture Books from the list that I like for Modeling/Practicing Visualization
Aliki, Marianthe’s Story: Painted Words/Spoken Memories
Baylor, Byrd, I’m in Charge of Celebrations
Brinckloe, Julie Fireflies!: Story and Pictures
Brown, Margaret Wise The Sailor Dog
Bouchard, D. Voices from the Wild
Bunting, Eve Smoky Night
Carlstrom, Nancy White What Does the Rain Play?
Carlstrom, Nancy White Wild, Wild Sunflower Child Anna
Condra, Estelle See the Ocean
Cooney, Barbara Miss Rumphius
Fletcher, Ralph Twilight Comes Twice
Heard, Georgia Creatures of Earth, Sea, and Sky
Howard, Jane When I’m Sleepy
London, Jonathan Hurricane
London, Jonathan Into this Night We Are Rising
London, Jonathan Like Butter on Pancakes
London, Jonathan Puddles
Lovell, Patty Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon
MacLachlan, Patricia Through Grandpa’s Eyes
MacLachlan, Patricia Journey
Marshak, Suzanna I Am the Ocean
Marzollo, Jean City Sounds
Marzollo, Jean Close Your Eyes
Mazer, Anne The Salamander Room
McCloskey, Robert Time of Wonder
Merriam, Eve Quiet, Please
Munoz, Pam Ryan Hello, Ocean! Hola Mar
Murphy, Jim The Call of the Wolves
Navasky, Bruno Festival in My Heart: Poems by Japanese Children
Ryder, Joanne Winter Whale
Rylant, Cynthia Night in the Country
Rylant, Cynthia Let’s Go Home
Schertle, Alice A Lucky Thing
Shannon, David A Bad Case of Stripes
Thomas, Shelley Moore Putting the World to Sleep
Wells, Rosemary Night Sounds, Morning Colors
Williams, Vera A Chair for My Mother
Wood, Audrey The Napping House
Worth, Valerie All the Small Poems and Fourteen More
Wyeth, Sharon Dennis Something Beautiful
Yolen, Jane Greyling
Yolen, Jane Color Me a Rhyme
Zolotow, Charlotte The Seashore Book